Posted by: orcaweb | July 8, 2010

We meet again, old friend…

If you speak to any keen birder, cetacean watcher (for lack of a better term) or any observer of any ‘group’, all will have a number of species that they have ‘relationships’ with.  These relationships can range from heartbreaking tales of being in the wrong place at the wrong time over, and over, and over again, to observers being seemingly incapable of seeing certain species, despite their obvious abundance.
Today I’d like to divulge my personal tale of the former…

Throughout many years of searching high and low, all across the shores of the UK and abroad, Orca (a.k.a. Killer Whales) has always eluded me.  Despite many possible and probables over the years, I’ve never had a 100% confirmed definite Orca, despite being very close on many occasions, and various sightings of definite large dorsal fins at sea, which have quickly disappeared and not been seen again.
At around 8:30a.m. on the 7th July we approached the beginning of the canyons that run out from just offshore of N. Spain, home to some of our most fascinating species.  After instructing the 15 or so strong assembled crowd not to neglect waters close to the boat, as Cuvier’s Beaked Whale has a habit of surfacing very close, I commenced one of my regular binocular scans of the mid-distance.  Soon into the scan I picked up on an enormous black dorsal fin sailing through the swell and uttered a loud “OH!” which was met by inquisitive “What?” “what is it?” “What’ve you got?”’s, not wanting to commit and disappoint I waited a few seconds to see if my suspicions were correct.  Before I could reply, an enormous head rose from the swell revealing a big white “eye” patch, enormous dorsal fin and grey saddle… “KILLER WHALE!!!” the time had come for my nemesis and I to finally meet.  Now if only my brain would catch up with my heart, and start believing my eyes…

In true Orca fashion, this was no half-effort sighting.  Complete with two youngsters in tow, a large female and huge male Killer Whale powered through the waves for mere seconds before disappearing below the surface, leaving a disappointed but adrenaline-fuelled crowd.  I was the only one who’d seen enough to confirm they were Orca… After 30 seconds of worrying that they wouldn’t reappear, a cry went up from a member of the crowd: “DOLPHINS” – at least they’ll see something I thought to myself, hoping there wouldn’t be too much disappointment…

Well, I guess they were half right, it was a dolphin… Fact of the matter is it was a 10 metre black and white Dolphin with a 6 foot dorsal fin, powering towards us at only 100 metres distance… For probably only 2 minutes we enjoyed prolonged views of these huge and incredible animals as they came into the side, and under the boat, one by one.  Through the excitement, shaking hands and trying to make sure everyone saw them, the following is the only photo I managed… It’s enough to show this is a true tale, but not enough to quench my thirst for the Orca… We will meet again, friend.

Lisle Gwynn – ORCA Wildlife Officer



  1. Wow Lisle ‘Orcas’ fantastic and for other people to see them to makes it special. They are the most amazing animals aren’t they? My wife and I were in British Columbia a couple of weeks ago and saw the famous ‘Southern Residents’ orca pods off the San Juan Island (U.S.A.) they were awesome. I want to go back soon. When I did the volunteer duty on the ‘Pont Aven’ ship for ORCA (Organisation Cetacea) last year a woman who came out on deck for a fag! Reckoned she had seen one, at this time I was on the other side of the helideck! When it came up again I only caught a ‘brief’ glimpse of a back and dorsal fin of a single animal. It was very frustrating cause I couldn’t get my binoculars onto the animal so I will never know but from her description of the animal ‘black and white etc: I reckon she had seen one. Just shows doesn’t it that you have got to be alert all the time for any possibility especially those tricky ‘beaked whales’!

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